Bill Clinton is shown on a screen grab during Tony Hsieh’s “LifeDay” celebration and livestream tribute on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020. (John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @JohnnyKats
Melody Sweets, The Hypnotiques and Pearl the Dog are shown on a screen grab during Tony Hsieh’s “LifeDay” celebration and livestream tribute on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020. (John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @JohnnyKats
Mr. Piffles, Piff The Magic Dragon’s sidekick, is shown on a screen grab during Tony Hsieh’s “LifeDay” celebration and livestream tribute on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020. (John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @JohnnyKats
Magician Jen Kramer and former Zappos exec Dylan Jorgensen are shown on a screen grab during Tony Hsieh’s “LifeDay” celebration and livestream tribute on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020. (John Katsilometes/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @JohnnyKats
Tony Hsieh’s visionary qualities and philanthropy was honored with a virtual celebration Saturday afternoon, with Bill Clinton leading the tributes on Hsieh’s “LifeDay.”
“I treasure every encounter I had with Tony,” Clinton said in a video message. “He was always pushing the limits, and he always asked us to think about things in different ways, to imagine how we could be happier, and do more. I came away from every conversation not just feeling like I’d learned something, but feeling a little better about the future.”
Hsieh had appeared with Clinton during a forum at a Clinton Global Initiative America event in 2014. At the time, Hsieh told Clinton, “Most innovation actually comes from something outside your industry being applied to your own,” Hsieh told the former president onstage.
The Facebook livestream tribute was posted on what would have been Hsieh’s 47th birthday. The downtown entrepreneur and co-founder of Zappos died Nov. 27 of injuries suffered days earlier in a fire at a house he was visiting in New London, Connecticut.
Hsieh’s “LifeDay” digital celebration’s audio feed cut out at about 30 minutes into the hourlong stream. The interruption was just after Mark Shunock’s cover of “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” and before Melody Sweets’ video segment of her parody song “Marry Juana,” performed with the Vegas tiki outfit The Hypnotiques.
Organizers said technical issues caused the problems. The event instead shifted to its online, DJ “dance party.” After a delay, co-organizer and longtime Hsieh friend Emily Jillette brought the feed back to those who had signed into the dance party. There are tentative plans to post the event on YouTube.
Even with the glitches, the celebration was a digital reunion of many of Hsieh favorites.
Amy Saunders of “Miss Behave Game Show” and The Laundry Room at Commonwealth performed her rose-stem-through-the-tongue routine while saying “Here’s to downtown (expletive) Vegas!” Extreme-sports star Tony Hawk debuted his “Tony Shuffle” half-pipe skateboard move. The Chicago music ensemble Mucca Pazza; comic Bo Johnson, Piff the Magic Dragon, Showgirl Jade Simone and Mr. Piffles; Westgate magician Jen Kramer and her boyfriend, ex-Zappos official Dylan Jorgensen; Chris Phillips of Zowie Bowie, clown artist Jimmy Slonina and his inflatable human-balancing partner; comic Jill Kimmel (sister of Jimmy Kimmel); Luxor headliner Carrot Top; keyboardist Jenn Lim; Brett Loudermilk of “Opium”; and Rio stalwarts Penn & Teller all appeared.
Shunock, founder of The Space and Vegas Golden Knights’ T-Mobile Arena emcee, turned in a comic, country-spirited cover of “I Can’t Stop This Feeling,” with the “Rock of Ages” and Vegas Golden Knights logos in the background. The bit blossomed to Shunock’s full-throated shouting of the chorus, and ended with Shunock cranking the VGK siren.
Kramer and Jorgensen completed a card trick starting with the Ace of Hearts, indicting Hsieh’s philanthropic heart, and ended with Kramer turning that single card into a royal flush of hearts to reflect a vibrant, loving community.
Hsieh was known to draw his friends out of their comfort zones. In that spirit, Penn & Teller sang together for the first time, a 40-year-old parody “Take Me Out to The Opera” sung to “Take Me Out To The Opera.”
Teller, of course, is nonverbal whenever onstage and does not sing in public. But somehow, in Hsieh’s sendoff, it fit right in.
‘Absinthe,’ ‘Atomic’ and Australia
Spiegelworld founder Ross Mollison is entertaining options to move his Vegas hit shows to Australia.
The impresario told Melbourne’s The Age newspaper that he might move “Absinthe” and “Atomic Saloon Show” to Australia if COVID conditions don’t improve, soon, here.
“Our creative team would love to come and do a show in Australia right now – it sounds like a great place to be. We can bring Vegas to Australia,” Mollison told the publication.
“Atomic,” especially, is ripe for a move as it has yet to reopen at The Venetian. Plans for the show to relaunch in the first week of January at Palazzo Theater have been put on hold.
“Atomic” could perform on the rooftop venue of the Crown resort in Melbourne, where “Absinthe” has previously showcased. Mollison told the Australian market, and anyone in Las Vegas paying attention, “We can run (Absinthe) for three weeks but if the Nevada governor doesn’t let us go back to a higher (audience) number we’ll have to shut. Our other two shows have now been shut for nine months. These kids have got nothing, and unemployment runs out in Nevada in two weeks.”
Mollison went on to say his company is in “a desperate situation,” adding, “We’ll know in the next week whether we have any chance getting (Saloon) on by February, and if not, maybe we’ll bring it to Crown.”
Australia has effectively suppressed the virus enough to reopen live entertainment. Currently, homegrown stars Human Nature, who have closed at Sands Showroom at The Venetian, are on a brief tour of the country.
As for “Absinthe” and sister shows “Atomic” and “Opium,” Mollison is running out of options “I can see my entire business disappearing,” he said. “I don’t know what is happening in Vegas. But I have to find work for our artists and shows.”
Recent Vegas resident and celeb scenester Pauly Shore turned up for an unbilled set at Neonopolis’ “Four Funny Comics” Friday night. The place was already at its 50-seat capacity. Shore is getting some work in this month, including his headlining show Dec. 18-19 at downtown Grand.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at [email protected] Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.